Who said Carthago delenda est?
Marcus Porcius Cato (born 234 BC, Tusculum, Latium – died 149 BC) was a Roman statesman, widely remembered now for his use of the phrase “Carthago delenda est”.
Cato was elected Quaestor (205), Aedile (199), Praetor (198) and Consul (195). Cato was also a military success and supressed a revolt in Spain and fought against Seleucid King Antiochus III at Thermopylae in 191. He was elected Censor in 184, after he was succeeded in breaking the political power of Lucius Scipio and Scipio Africanus the Elder.
Cato was a reactionary and traditionalist in outlook as well as being hostile to the influence of Greek ideas in Rome which he felt undermined Roman moral standards. He was active in limiting the excesses of tax gatherers and promoted public works, including building the Basilica Porta – the first market hall in Rome.
The anti-Greek stance and his austere policies and stances as Censor were not uniformly popular and Cato was a controversial figure for many. He was forced later to defend himself against enemies in the law courts a total of 44 times against various accusations.
Cato continued his political campaigns after his term as Censor ended. He supported the Lex Orchia (181) and Lex Voconia (169) against luxury and the financial freedom of women respectively.
Cato went on an embassy to Carthage in 157 to arbitrate between that city and Numidia. The mission was a failure but Cato’s impression of the prosperity of Carthage was the likely the instigation of his perception of the city as renewed threat to Rome. Afterwards he was to seek to instigate a conflict to destroy Cartage by ending any speech he made, on whatever subject, with the phrase “Moreover, I advise that Carthage must be destroyed”. This phrase is typically given as “Carthago delenda est” (Carthage must be destroyed).
Rome had defeated Carthage in the Second Punic War (218 – 201 BC) and in the peace treaty that followed stripped her of her many of her territories, imposed a fine of 10,000 silver talents and limited their navy to 10 ships. The Carthaginians had to seek permission from Rome to wage war in Africa. In 151 Carthage responded to numerous previous provocation from the Numidian King (and Rome’s client) Masinissa, who had been flagrantly seizing lands. Carthage raised a huge army and attacked the Numidians without permission from Rome but were defeated and surrendered. Carthage had paid off the fine to Rome but this unauthorised warfare provided the Casus Belli for a renewal in warfare for the Romans, like Cato, who were eager to vanquish the city.
Cato was to live to see the initiation of hostilities, which are known now as the Third Punic War. This campaign was to end with the destruction of the city of Carthage and the annexation of their territories which were to become the Roman Province of Africa.
Toynebee, Arnold: ‘Hannibal’s Legacy‘
Harris, William: ‘War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, 327 – 70 BC‘